The Invisible Homeless

The Invisible Homeless

An undercover epidemic
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We see them at intersections of busy highways, cardboard sign in hand, oftentimes very rugged in appearance.

We see them when we volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters, oftentimes lined up all the way out the door.

We see them in large cities, oftentimes being approached by a police officer.

But when it comes to homeless people, there are more than meet the eye.

Typically, the word 'homeless' brings to mind images like the ones shared above- it is an urban issue, with people living on the streets, asking strangers for spare change. The population is visible, strikingly so. Yes, this highly apparent type of homelessness is generally associated with the alleys and park benches of metropolitan areas.

But there is another type of homelessness, one that often eludes public recognition and policy. It is virtually impossible to find in records and research and is often mistaken for poverty. In fact, most researchers literally call individuals in this situation 'the invisible homeless'.

This invisible category of homelessness is characterized by individuals who do not necessarily lack shelter, but they do lack stability. It is most often found in rural areas, where it is more unlikely to see people actually living on the street and equally unlikely to see an emergency shelter within reasonable walking distance. The general lack of accessible resources in rural areas is why homelessness is and should be an even more pervasive issue in these settings.

While the rural homeless may not be sleeping on city sidewalks or in public places, they are not any less homeless than their urban counterparts. They may be sleeping in their car, a church, an abandoned building, or, most commonly, on the couch of a relative or friend. Rural areas tend to be comprised of closer family units and interpersonal relationships than urban centers, so it is likely that family and friends will take in an individual in a homeless situation. Unfortunately, this pattern has become somewhat normalized and can prevent a person from seeking further services. In general, citizens of rural areas see homelessness as a temporary situation rather than a chronic condition. It is seen as the result of economic hardship rather than long-term and long-lasting influences and stressors. Thus, the individual is often encouraged to seek a new job as the solution to all their problems. However, attributing homelessness to only one factor is not always helpful.

For the past ten weeks, I have been collecting anecdotal evidence of homelessness in rural American Indian communities in North Carolina. A major recurring theme is that individuals and families end up living in homes with several other occupants because the homeowner refused to "let" the needy individual be homeless. The misconception is that as long as there is a roof over their head, the person is not homeless. This is not the case, even though federal policy can sometimes allow it to be as such. Some policies account for housing instability as homelessness, while others do not. In rural situations, homelessness absolutely should include individuals and families who are unable to obtain and/or maintain housing. As in the case of the American Indian communities, just because someone has family who will not let them sleep, literally, outside does not mean they are not experiencing chronic homelessness. Also, rural homelessness, just like urban homelessness, is not one dimensional. It is not simply the result of economic hardship and underdevelopment. It can be attributed to unfair housing shortages, substance abuse, mental health stigmatization, historic discrimination and disadvantage, and severe economic disparity. These have all been cited as issues in the communities I have worked in, but they are under-served due to the disparity of resources seen in rural areas. This is an unfortunate truth across the board of rural populations, and it needs to be addressed.

Homelessness exists everywhere, and it exists in many different ways. Just like everybody else, the people in these situations are experiencing them on a spectrum, and our resources and policies that are being made to help them need to exist on a spectrum as well. Ending homelessness will not happen with a one-size-fits-all approach; we must acknowledge all of its categories.

Remember, just because you cannot see it, does not mean it's not there.

Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle – Here Is Why Being Picky Is Okay

They're on their best behavior when you're dating.
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Dating nowadays described in one word: annoying.

What's even more annoying? when people tell you that you're being too "picky" when it comes to dating. Yes, from an outside perspective sometimes that's exactly what it looks like; however, when looking at it from my perspective it all makes sense.

I've heard it all:

"He was cute, why didn't you like him?"

"You didn't even give him a chance!"

"You pay too much attention to the little things!"

What people don't understand is that it's OKAY to be picky when it comes to guys. For some reason, girls in college freak out and think they're supposed to have a boyfriend by now, be engaged by the time they graduate, etc. It's all a little ridiculous.

However, I refuse to put myself on a time table such as this due to the fact that these girls who feel this way are left with no choice but to overlook the things in guys that they shouldn't be overlooking, they're settling and this is something that I refuse to do.

So this leaves the big question: What am I waiting for?

Well, I'm waiting for a guy who...

1. Wants to know my friends.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I want a guy who can hang out with my friends. If a guy makes an effort to impress your friends then that says a lot about him and how he feels about you. This not only shows that he cares about you but he cares about the people in your life as well.

Someone should be happy to see you happy and your friends contribute to that happiness, therefore, they should be nothing more than supportive and caring towards you and your friendships.

2. Actually, cares to get to know me.

Although this is a very broad statement, this is the most important one. A guy should want to know all about you. He should want to know your favorite movie, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Netflix series, etc. Often, (the guys I get stuck on dates with) love to talk about themselves: they would rather tell you about what workout they did yesterday, what their job is, and what they like to do rather than get to know you.

This is something easy to spot on the first date, so although they may be "cute," you should probably drop them if you leave your date and can recite everything about their life since the day they were born, yet they didn't catch what your last name was.

3. How they talk about other women.

It does not matter who they're talking about, if they call their ex-girlfriend crazy we all know she probably isn't and if she is it's probably their fault.

If they talk bad about their mom, let's be honest, if they're disrespecting their mother they're not going to respect you either. If they mention a girl's physical appearances when describing them. For example, "yeah, I think our waitress is that blonde chick with the big boobs"

Well if that doesn't hint they're a complete f* boy then I don't know what else to tell you. And most importantly calling other women "bitches" that's just disrespectful.

Needless to say, if his conversations are similar to ones you'd hear in a frat house, ditch him.

4. Phone etiquette.

If he can't put his phone down long enough to take you to dinner then he doesn't deserve for you to be sitting across from him.

If a guy is serious about you he's going to give you his undivided attention and he's going to do whatever it takes to impress you and checking Snapchat on a date is not impressive. Also, notice if his phone is facedown, then there's most likely a reason for it.

He doesn't trust who or what could pop up on there and he clearly doesn't want you seeing. Although I'm not particularly interested in what's popping up on their phones, putting them face down says more about the guy than you think it does.

To reiterate, it's okay to be picky ladies, you're young, there's no rush.

Remember these tips next time you're on a date or seeing someone, and keep in mind: they're on their best behavior when you're dating. Then ask yourself, what will they be like when they're comfortable? Years down the road? Is this what I really want? If you ask yourself these questions you might be down the same road I have stumbled upon, being too picky.. and that's better than settling.

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Buying New Clothes Every Month Has Been The Key To Helping Me Become Happy With My Body Again

Loving my body in new outfits has boosted my self image so much.

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Being body-positive has been really hard for me to do throughout 2019, despite there being an overwhelming surge in body-positivity around me, whether through my friends and family or YouTube. I look in the mirror and what I see is someone I want to make a jean size or two smaller like in the past. That being said, I've slowly been coming around to accepting the body I have now, instead of bashing it constantly. A key way I've come to accept the body I'm in now is through buying myself something new every month, like a new T-shirt or a pair of jeans or sneakers that help me see myself in a positive light. When I'm in a new outfit, I feel invincible. I don't think about how pudgy my stomach is, or about the hair I have growing in random places, like my neck or on my nose (yes, not just in, but ON too).

My bank account tends to suffer as of recently because of this, but it's worth it when I can genuinely feel good in what I am wearing every day. I like to wake up and think about how many outfits I can put together, ready to post my #OOTD for Snapchat without caring what anyone thinks. I've let social media dictate how I feel about myself more than I care to admit. I see how perfect all the models are in everything they're wearing from brands I know and love, yet when I try the same thing on, it's a whole different ugly story.

I don't enjoy trying things on to avoid the shame I feel when things don't fit me right, or if something that I thought would flatter me actually makes me look like a sack of potatoes. Instagram has really hurt my body image a lot — enough to make me delete it for a week after one post sent me spiraling. Going through those bumps made me finally realize it's not my fault if something doesn't fit. Sizes range depending on the item, it's the clothing items fault, not mine. Now that I see that, it's easier to brush off something not fitting me as it should. I know my size very well in the stores I frequent the most, so it's easier for me to pick out things I know will look good and not have to worry about the sizing issue.

Buying yourself something new is not something you should limit to every few months or longer. You shouldn't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone price wise every once and a while either. Coupons exist, stories always offer you them when you first sign up to receive emails and even texts. You can be crafty and still get a high price item for less. If you treat yourself to cheap things, you won't feel half as good as you want to. Granted, sticking to a limit is important but there's no shame in going over the limit every once and a while.

I love shopping as much as I love country music and writing short stories — a lot. Yes, I get yelled at almost every time I get something new. I need to save my money for important things, like for my sorority or for medical issues that could suddenly arise, or for utilities at my house next year off campus.

However, my mental well-being is not something I can ignore.

I can't push the good feelings aside to save 30 or 40 bucks a month. I don't want to feel as low as I've felt about myself anymore. I'm tired of feeling sad or angry at who I am, and I want to learn how to accept myself as I am. Buying myself something new, like clothes, is what offers a positive light to view myself under.

Whether you treat yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant, or to face masks, or to a new movie when it comes out — don't be afraid to do it. Put yourself first and you'll realize your worth and how much you've been ignoring it in the face of poor confidence.

My confidence isn't back up to where it used to be, but it's getting there.

It may not be the most cash efficient method of self-love, but my body positivity is better than it was a few months ago. Aerie and American Eagle have really helped me become happier with my body, and I can't thank them enough for being more inclusive for people like me who are learning to love themselves again in a new body.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us hoping to promote our own body positivity, and it could all start with a simple purchase from your favorite store after you read this.

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